One of my wife’s latest brick & mortar selections, Chuck Mangione’s 1976 album, Main Squeeze. My wife (adorably) confused Mr. Mangione with Herb Alpert, but we’re both more than happy to welcome this modern jazz (well, mid-70’s modern jazz) album to the collection. I’d definitely welcome more spins by Mangione in the near future, and it just hit me that I should probably be listening to a lot more from the A&M Records library. Baja Marimba Band, anyone?
There’s something striking, and a bit unnerving about the cover of Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66’s 1967 album Equinox. First of all, since their debut album dropped in 1966, and this is their sophomore effort, shouldn’t they have referred to themselves as Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’67? But more importantly, the angle of the cover photo, and the pensive looks across the faces of this great Latin jazz band suggest some hidden, otherworldly connection. When taking the photo for this record, I nonchalantly framed the album on my desk and through my camera saw six, 1967 musicians staring back at me. It was a moment I couldn’t shake, hence the subject of this post. Anyway, the music is great, like I said, Latin jazz, and you should check it out, if you can get past the chilling cover.
Let’s take a little look-see through this colorful back catalog to the now defunct A&M Records, shall we? As noted before (I think…), A&M Records was started by Mr. Tijuana Brass himself, Herb Alpert. Groovy, no? If you look closely, you’ll notice a few CTI Records scattered about (Wes Montomery’s A Day in the Life and Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Wave), and let’s not forget that CTI Records (Creed Taylor Incorporated) started as a subsidiary of A&M before spreading their independent wings and going solo in 1970, which places this insert somewhere between 1967 and 1970… for what that’s worth. Sidebar, I’m rapidly running out of inserts, and this deeply saddens me. The hunt shall undoubtedly continue.
Herb Alpert and his talented band of merry elves deliver a stellar collection of wistful Christmas classics neatly wrapped in a “south of the border” sized box, with just the right amount of contemporary wrapping and an unforgettable horn-shaped bow. The standards, you ask? They’re here… Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Jingle Bell Rock, Winter Wonderland, Jingle Bells etc., as well the desperately playful Burt Bacharach number, The Bell that Couldn’t Jingle.
Released in 1968 on A&M Records, a label Mr. Alpert helped form (the A in A&M stands for Alpert… true story), this set of holiday hymns suffers from only one discriminating flaw… it is entirely too short. This album could easily be three times the length and still not cross that lingering line of awkward and incessant “is this album EVER gonna’ end” vibe. This album, like most everything Herb Alpert was involved with, is extravagant and considerably timeless. One thing is clear after listening to this album; I don’t listen to NEAR enough Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass. My list of New Year’s resolutions is growing exponentially. I blame Obama.
(Raises coffee mug… again) Oh, I almost forgot, Herb Alpert and his Tijuana Brass wanted me to inform you that their album, The Beat of the Brass is good mood music for unwinding after a hectic day. So, keep that in mind if today turns into one of those, “what the hell do you mean, it’s only Monday?!” kind of days.
When you purchase a used album, you really never know what you’re going to get. (Takes a few steps forward and smiles.) Hello, this is X from The Prudent Groove.
Not unlike downloading an album without the proper metadata, and we all know how annoying THAT can be, am I right?! (Takes a beat.) The level of quality attributed to a used record you find at say, a thrift store, is based solely on the mindset, (Beat.) and general care of its previous owner. (Looks down, then back up. Puts hands in pockets.)
Was the previous owner a neat freak who housed each of their cherished albums in overpriced, protective sleeves like we do here at The Groove? (Cocks head as to ponder this question.) Did they use the front jacket as a temporary table for rolling dried relaxation plants? (Beat.) Were they careless and used the back cover as a coaster, leaving a circular ring of ancient coffee above the “we’re trying to look casual” picture of the band? (Lets out a slight chuckle.)
These questions, and any others you may have of a record’s previous owner, will fall upon deaf ears, and the answers will only exist within our own imaginations. (Sits down on a chair. Where did the chair come from?)
Take for example this A&M Records insert I found inside my copy of Johnny Cash & Jerry Lee Lewis’ Sunday Down South album on Sun Records. (Holds up record, not pictured here.) The previous owner either didn’t care, or didn’t notice that the insert didn’t match the album. Not a very big deal as the record is in pristine shape. (Chuckles.) The previous owner probably didn’t enjoy the music and never played it, and THAT’S why it’s in such good shape. (Stands back up and begins walking.)
“Listen To Your World” is a clear-headed marketing slogan from A&M Records that suggests “your world” (Does quotes with his fingers… incorrectly.) can only be found on A&M Records. Clever girl. (Says in terrible British accent.) The flipside to this slogan showcases some pretty heavy-hitters from the A&M catalogue. (Looks down at insert as if to read.) Cat Stevens, Herb Alpert, Humble Pie, Quincy Jones and Burt Bacharach to name a few. With no date affixed to this insert, the words, “Listen To Your World” seem to become as timeless as some of the classic releases found on A&M Records. Coupled with the bold, white text on a basic, black background, this modern day musical proverb is a strong, and I hope profitable, marketing campaign for A&M Records, one that I’m happy I stumbled upon in an almost unorthodox manner.
Take a little mental trip on your next hunt through your local second hand store, and give a distinctive personality to that record you can’t live without. (Puts hands in pockets and smiles.) The album, like the music, exists as an entity in and of itself. Give it a history, and your collection will come to life in ways you never imagined.
This has been X from The Prudent Groove. (Smiles and puts hands on hips.) I’ll see you here tomorrow. Have a great afternoon. (Walks away in an awkward, no idea where he is stroll.)